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173: The Five Step Process To Optimize Your Facebook Ad Account

Posted by Austin Brawner on November 20, 2018

One of the most common questions Andrew gets from his clients is: how do I optimize my Facebook ad account?

Today he talks about RCAB-P, his five step process for optimizing and improving Facebook ads. We’ll cover the number one thing you need to do before you start optimizing, and walk through each of the five steps in detail to help you successfully optimize your ad account.

Enjoy!

Episode Highlights

  • 3:41 The first thing you need to do before you start optimizing your Facebook ad account. 
  • 5:13 How much you should be spending before you start thinking about optimization.
  • 6:10 Step one in the optimization process: Reporting Metrics.
  • 7:23 The fundamental questions you want to answer with your metrics report.
  • 9:01 Understanding secondary metrics, and a common metric Andrew doesn’t recommend tracking.
  • 11:01 Step two: Optimizing Creative (your most important lever for optimization).
  • 11:33 The new creative ad feature Facebook just rolled out.
  • 12:57 Creative optimization: using different creative at different points in your funnel.
  • 16:23 Step three: Audience Optimization.
  • 17:02 First Time Impression ratio – what it is and why it’s important.
  • 18:57 Dynamic vs static custom audiences and how to optimize each of them.
  • 21:31 Step four: Bidding Optimizations
  • 23:50 Using manual bid overrides during Black Friday. 
  • 24:53 Step five: Placement – the huge optimization many people are not taking advantage of.
  • 27:46 What to do if you get through the five step optimization process and you’re still not getting results. 
  • 28:18 Another new Facebook feature to try: campaign budget optimizations.

Links and Resources

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Transcript

Austin Brawner: What’s up everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I’m Andrew Foxwell. Hey, man. How in the heck are you doing?

Austin Brawner: I’m doing great. I am recording this episode right before heading to the airport to fly down to Mexico City, which I’m excited about. I’m going to be down there for the next four, five days, and then heading to Oaxaca for a couple days. So I’m excited about that.

Andrew Foxwell: Nice. Nice. Nice, man. Well, I’m fully suited up in flannel currently. And getting excited, because tomorrow I’m actually working the polls, so I’m pretty jacked about that.

Austin Brawner: Nice. Yeah, we’re recording this the day before election day, and you’ll probably get this episode a couple weeks from now. But, yeah, we are kind of fired up. We’ve been thinking a little bit about just a good conversation to have around ad accounts, obviously.

There’s a lot of conversation around what’s working, what’s not working in advertising during this time. And that was kind of what your thought process, right? Give us kind of a rundown on what we’re going to be talking about, because I know you put this episode together specifically for people who are thinking about their ad account.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Basically, I had looked at this and looked at common questions across all of the consulting that we do. And the common thing that we really get is a question of what do I do in terms of optimization? And how do I go about optimizing? Because a lot of people say, okay, cool I can try that new ad unit, I can try this new audience, et cetera. So really the question comes down to, what can I do once I know I can try these things? Is there a formal process that I can go through? So that’s what we’re talking about today for optimization.

Austin Brawner: So a formal process to optimize and improve your account. Let’s kick thing off, man.

Austin Brawner: What is the first step to figure how to start optimizing your accounts?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. So the first thing that you need to do is, one, establish your baselines. Just establishing what are the numbers that you need to hit. You’d be surprised at the amount of the people that don’t have that established. They say, well, look, I want to increase return. Okay. That makes sense. We can do that. I want to get the CPA down. Sure, we can understand that. But what is that number, and what’s the minimum that number can be, as well, to understand, because that will help you to translate into your top funnel audiences, and prospecting, and understanding, okay, look I need to have a one point eight X on the top funnel to make that viable in the remarketing funnel. It’s understanding and establishing the baselines.

The other things that you want to establish, too, are what are the baselines on performance. This is why when you start doing ads for the first time you don’t know necessarily what you’re click-through rate baseline is. You don’t what your cost per landing page view baseline is. So, understanding what those specific things are first, before you try to optimize, is really huge. And kind of gathering those up and establishing them is what we’re going for.

Austin Brawner: Going back, just to kind of set the stage here, we’re talking about optimization. That means you need to be currently running consistent ad spend to be able to be optimizing. This isn’t going to be that helpful when you’re just starting out spending your first thousand dollars, right? This isn’t going to be that helpful.

Andrew Foxwell: That’s exactly right.

Austin Brawner: At what level do you feel like people need to be at to really start diving in and thinking about optimization?

Andrew Foxwell: So, I think the level that people want to be at is, you’re going to want to be spending for at least a month of just testing and learning, right? And you’re going to want to be spending probably around at least $2000 a month, of kind of getting a real read on where things are at.

Especially in Q4, it makes this particularly difficult. This is a process that I follow the whole year, and it’s not necessarily specific to Q4, but you could at this particular time translate a lot of these actions, that we’ll go through here, into things that you’re doing in Q4. So, that’s kind of the baseline that you’re looking for that you want to try to focus on if you can.

Austin Brawner: Okay.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. So, basically, once you establish those baselines, you have the numbers, you know what you’re trying to do, then you start to go into the two methods to optimization.

The first one is what I basically call reporting metrics. What are the numbers that you’re pulling on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and what are the numbers related to as the stats? So, I look at spend, results, reach, cost per result, budget, amount of purchases, website purchases, cost per website purchase, website purchase conversion value, website purchase ROAS, link clicks, cost per link click, and the click-through rate on the link. Those are the metrics that I’m looking at on a daily basis. 

Austin Brawner: On your dashboard, correct?

Andrew Foxwell: On my dashboard, exactly. So basically, I’m going into Facebook’s reporting and I am pulling these out, customizing the columns in the lower right-hand corner, there’s a little area there you can click customize columns, and then I am saving that particular dashboard, and I name it “Daily.” I go in, then, daily and look at that particular thing, and I basically use, in the upper right-hand corner, that date picker, and choose the comparison window of today, or yesterday, versus the day before. I do this in the morning, but those are the things I look at on a daily basis.

There’s other things that I’ve added to my weekly and my monthly basis, too, that pull out a lot more, but all of these metrics, particularly for me, is they’re trying to understand the fundamental questions of is my CPA going up or down? Is my click-through rate on the link going up or down? Is my cost per click going up or down? And the cost per link clicks, specifically. And then, generally looking, do any of ad sets show signs of fatigue? Are those things declining? Is it potentially that my audience, or that particular ad set, it’s been showing too long, it needs to be freshened up. So those are the things that I’m looking at on a daily basis to try to understand when I’m optimizing.

Austin Brawner: So that daily metric is kind of there to look at and be like, just to make sure everything is healthy. Right? Just a little quick check.

Andrew Foxwell: Exactly.

Austin Brawner: Just so you don’t freak out. You can look at it and see if there’s anything vastly different. 

Andrew Foxwell: Right.

Austin Brawner: Then when you go and move on a little bit further, besides the daily, what’s the next thing you’re looking at?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. So the daily is establishing what that is. And I will say that a lot of people that I work with, when I look at their particular report that they’re looking at is, they’re looking at really what we’re going to call primary and secondary metrics. They’re looking at purchases, they’re looking at CPA, and that’s it. And that’s all that they’re really looking at in relation to their ad sets. Either that or they’re also be looking at something like a video view. Or the percentage of the video that’s viewed on average.

So, to me, I think it’s important to understand how the secondary metrics relate to what you’re trying to do before we go into the deeper part of the process that I use, because video views is a metric that Facebook has had issues with, actually. They haven’t been as transparent on that. So, that’s one that I just wouldn’t track. Does it really matter if you had a 58% view time on a 15-second video versus a 67%? Do you know what I’m saying? Maybe it is important to you for building custom audiences, but many times it’s not. And it’s really what I would call almost a throwaway metric. It’s a feel-good metric. People are like, yeah, but I got a lot of good video views. I’m just like, I don’t know. To me it doesn’t matter as much, right?

And so establishing and understanding the primary metrics are fine, but then establishing your secondary metrics as signals. Again, CPC, CTR. Things like am I driving more people to the site, and are they continuing to find it interesting? That’s really what we’re trying to look at with this daily, weekly, monthly reporting process. So establishing those and having those reports built is good. And you can save those, by the way, if you go into the customized columns area, you can actually click and name it, and you can save it. So, you can make sure that that’s pulled and easy there for you. And it’s not within the reporting area that they kind of took away last year with Facebook ads.

Once you’ve established that, then we get into what I call the RCAB-P process. And the RCAB-P process is my process that I use on everything. And it stands for, R, reporting, which is what we just talked about. So, actually, this is the beginning of this process. And then you get into creative, audiences, bidding, and placement. Those are the main areas of probably where 95% of the optimizations that you’re making are going to fall in each of those buckets. Again, RCAB-P.

We already talked about R. So let’s talk about C.

Alright, the C, when you’re looking at this is you’re trying to answer creative problems. You’re looking at these ad sets, you’re seeing maybe on a week over week basis, that your creative isn’t working as well. You’re CPAs are rising, you’re CTRs are declining, et cetera. And so, what are optimizations you can make? And these are the things that right now are working well, and people are asking me how do I optimize? These are the optimization process I’m using on creative.

One is, have you tried square video link posts? So, square being the aspect ration, one to one aspect ration, on a video link post, which is under the conversion metric its got the video itself, and then right below it is the gray box. And that whole thing clicks through to your website, and, again, we said we recorded this on November 5th. Only a week ago did they actually roll this out. So this is a brand new thing that’s huge.

And actually, Facebook is recommending now, even if you don’t have a video, square imagery. So, again, one to one aspect ration, that’s a 1080 by a 1080, on that particular link post. The first thing is, if you’re looking at the ads, maybe you haven’t tried this. And so have you tried square video link posts? That’s an optimization tactic that you can use right away with creative.

The second one is, have you tried something with movement? Same type of thing, right? Have you actually tried to take some of you photos that you may have and turn them into a slideshow? That’s another opportunity that you have as it relates to creative optimization. So these are the most popular two that I’m looking at now. If I’m looking at an account, what are they not doing? Are they trying square video link posts, and is there any movement anywhere in the creative? If everything is static and it’s sitting there, that’s a challenge.

Then the third one is, have you attempted to understand where the differences are in creative as it relates to where they are in the funnel? And we’ve talked about this a little bit in relation to some of the other things that we’ve done around Q4 and some of the other optimizations. But what I’m trying to say here is have you looked and said, okay, am I showing them the exact same ad to somebody that’s new? To somebody that’s coming back? And am I showing different creative in different time windows?

So, if they’ve come in the last seven days are they seeing something different than those that engaged in the last 14 days? Or are new people getting enough of an explanatory piece of what your product does and why it’s interesting. Also, where does your offer live?

This creative optimization is something that very, very few people fully understand. So, you’re trying to say, look, I know that people are coming in my sales funnel in different places. So how do I show them ads in different parts of my sales funnel that will continually engage them to build that brand story. That’s the C in the RCAB-P process.

Austin Brawner: In the RCAB-P process, which I really like because it’s very, very clear, is C the biggest lever? It is, right?

Andrew Foxwell: C is the biggest, and that’s why it’s the first one. Yep. Because the number one thing when I look at optimization, and this is, again, your optimization process, of going through this is, looking at all these accounts, I think, seriously, we’re over 250 accounts I’ve looked at this year, creative is a major, major part of this.

Let me give you a case on this for two seconds. Somebody I was working with, spending about $100,000 to $150,000 a month US on Facebook, they have started to add movement in. That’s fantastic. They’re seeing decent results, and things are improving based off of some of the things we talked about. However, they are showing the exact same video in all parts of the funnel. And there’s no real product benefit to it. You don’t understand what makes it great, and there’s now user-generated content, something else we’ve talked about as a further creative optimization you could do. So there’s no user-generated content part of it. There’s no validation on it. And so it’s the same video you’re seeing in all parts of the funnel. Instagram Stories, newsfeed.

And at the end of the day you’re like, I don’t get it, still, right? So, if you’re not converting in that funnel, that’s a challenge. So that’s part of where C is absolutely the primary lever you can pull. And people overlook that. A lot of times people will think that the biggest optimization you can make is on audiences. Which is true. You can make a lot of optimizations on audiences, which we’re going to talk about next, but creative is the primary lever that you should be looking at.

Austin Brawner: Well, because creative is as close as you’re going to get. Because remember, this whole episode is about optimization. So it’s not about changing up your entire offer structure, right?

Andrew Foxwell: Correct.

Austin Brawner: The offer structure is going to be the highest lever. You create a better offer, you can launch something and have a huge impact. But within that, then you’ve got creative, which is kind of the next lever. If you’ve got an offer that’s working, has worked for a long time, struggling, want to make some changes, yeah, go to creative, because that is your big, big lever. And really think about how you can reframe it, change it, improve it, and then go from there. Once you go through creative, you move onto audiences, right? The RCAB-P.

Andrew Foxwell: That’s right. Exactly. Of the RCAB-P. So audiences is the next one. I look at audiences of, okay, how do we optimize my audiences. How do we make that better? The very first fundamental question you have to answer on audiences is are they showing a lower first-time impression ration or is it higher? If you’ve not done this exercise you can roll over any ad set and look at this graph, and you’re able to click at the Delivery Insights menu. This is also within your Business Manager navigation up at the top. And you can look at it and basically look at a lot of different things. You can see that particular ad set over a certain amount of days. And you can see what your CPA is doing. And you can see this metric that I follow religiously called First Time Impression ratio. And we talked about this on a podcast back in August, I think it was.

But basically what it’s showing you is how many people are seeing this ad for the first time. So, if that is lower than 50% and it’s declining over time that’s why your ad sets are wearing out. And 1% look-a-likes are notorious for this, actually, right? So if you haven’t done something like a 2%, or a 4% of your best customers or purchasers recently, I would absolutely recommend doing so, because that’s going to have a lower first-time impression ratio. Because, one, they’ve not seen it, and, two, it’s a bigger audience, right? So that number is going to be able to increase over time. So that’s the first thing that I look at on audience optimization is, what’s that first time impression ratio? And is that declining or is it basically holding steady?

Because if your ads are doing really well, and you’ve gone through, let’s say, the learning phase, right? And there’s various things you could talk about with the learning phase of getting out of that 50 conversions in a seven-day window. A lot of learning phases are actually finishing faster than that now. But if you’ve gone through that, and Facebook understands how to deliver your ads, I have seen ad sets that are spending two to three thousand dollars a day, targeting 3% to 4% to 5% look-a-likes, and their first time impression ratio hovers in the 50% to 60% range all the time. It never changes, because Facebook is continually finding people that are new and qualified. So that’s a big part of what you’re trying to understand with that audience optimization.

Austin Brawner: So, you’re there. Talk a little bit about dynamic, static custom audiences, and where there’s going to be a little bit more data.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, totally. So that’s the second part of audience optimization, I mean, one of the primary things, which is are you considering utilizing the differences in that dynamic and static custom audiences?

For example, there are different types of users that come into your funnel. There are those that are page views. They come in once and they’re a page view, and you create a look-a-like off of those that have come. It’s a very soft action, right? Then there’s look-a-likes off of people that have spent the most time on your site. Look-a-like of top 25% website custom audience. That’s a very different user fundamentally than a page view, 1% look-a-like, or 2% look-a-like, right? And then there are those that are based off of ad to cart or purchase something down the funnel.

What you want in any ad account is you want a myriad of different types of actions that people are taking dynamically. Dynamic meaning they’re coming in and that’s constantly updating. So it’s based off of the pixel. And the examples that I aforementioned, those are all dynamic custom audiences, right? They’re updating every 72 hours as long as they’re in use.

And then you want static custom audiences. So, even though it might be the same thing, your two-time customer, customers over a certain dollar value, that you upload manually into Facebook, or you have connected through Klaviyo, Facebook reads those things differently. And so having the myriad of those together is a good idea. And segmenting out an add to cart look-a-like from a page view look-a-like is a really good idea to do, because those are different people, right?

Add to carts are people that have taken an action, less data, but higher qualified. And then page view is good, because now you’re not doing interest targeting, right? You’re not just targeting those that are interested in you that everybody else bid against. It’s still a look-a-like audience that you can use.

So, what I mean by looking at this is optimizations that surround how different is your funnel that you’ve built on custom audiences. This isn’t a matter of, in my opinion, going through and just lumping everything into one thing. Now, if you have unlimited budget of course you can do that. But the question in terms of optimization is how can you understand how users are coming in and doing things differently, and create look-a-likes from that, and create different paths to purchase.

Austin Brawner: So we are through the RCA of the RCAB-P process.

Andrew Foxwell: RCAB-P, yeah. That’s right. 

Austin Brawner: B is bidding.

Andrew Foxwell: B is my favorite. Yeah, exactly. And I like C. I like creative. But the B part of the process is huge, and bidding is a massive one that there’s a lot of optimization around. It’s also something that, personally, I would not have said I recommend doing a lot of optimization in January, February of this year. It just wasn’t something that we do, or that I was doing, and it was not very effective in many cases.

Now the bidding optimizations that we’re looking at are really threefold for me right off the bat. One is, is there any sort of target cost bidding within this account? And target cost bidding, if you’re not sure what that is, is that basically says to Facebook, hey, I want to only have conversions under this dollar amount. Now, it’s really challenging and can hurt your volume in terms of the conversions coming in. However, if you’re trying to control ROAS, you can use target cost bidding, and that’s really an effective methodology.

The second one is, have you tried to widen the bid out? So many times I’ll go in and look at an account and they’ll say, “Things are just burning out really fast. What are optimizations I can make on the bidding part of this?” Well, the bidding part is, don’t just bid on one day click. Don’t just bid on one day view.

Somewhere along the line, love him lots, Ezra Firestone told everybody to bid only on one day clicks. So my point is try a seven day click one day view. Make it a little bit wider, because that’s a bigger selection of the audience. There’s only a certain segment of people that have done something within that one day click window. And that’s a great way to bid if you’ve not done it before. It’s a great thing to experiment with. But then try widening it out, and see if you can bring more stability to the account.

And the third one of bidding optimizations is utilizing and override. So what that means is you go through and you say to Facebook, I want to spend three to four times my CPA. A great tactic, of course, for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, on prospecting audiences, and I want to try to do that. Now, what you could do, too, is if your CPA is $100 that you’re going for, you could try and override a, let’s say, 130, 110, and see how you can walk that down over time. Sometimes utilizing that override will win you more auctions and can bring more stability to the account. So this is actually the old becoming new again. This is something we used to do a lot a couple years ago.

So those are the bidding optimizations that I like to look at right off the bat.

Austin Brawner: So when you say … so it’s manual bid override, right? That’s the terminology of what you’re actually doing for Black Friday? So just to walk through specifically how that works. So let’s say you’re coming into Black Friday, and how would you explain to somebody who’s going into Black Friday how they actually do manual bid override, and what that would look like? And I know you kind of touched on it a little bit, but I want to go a little deeper for people who don’t necessarily understand exactly what you said there.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally. Totally. So there’s two different things that you’re going to be looking at. So first of all, for your low funnel audiences, previous customer, 180-day site visits, et cetera, I recommend, actually, utilizing a cost per click bid, which is the only time in the year I recommend using it. But it forces your ads into the auction, and if you do a cost per click bid of, let’s say, $10 to $15 it’s going to beat out every other person in the auction, and it’s going to ensure that your ads get shown. So that’s really, really a big one first of all.

In terms of utilizing manual bid overrides as it relates to prospecting audiences in Black Friday, utilizing something like a 5X over … multiplying it by five. So if your CPA you want to go for is $100, bidding $500 to get a conversion in on a prospecting audience during this time is what I would recommend. Because it basically ensures that your ads show.

And if you have a good enough site, that has a good enough offer, then that’s going to be an incredible resource for you. So that’s basically how you do it. You can leave it as a default bid. Seven day click, one day view, and you manually override and put that in. And you can mix it into kind of control your return on ad spend, as I said earlier, with a target cost bid, and making sure that you’re doing a mixture of what we call in the industry basically cost control, or cost forward spending.

Austin Brawner: Sounds good. That makes sense.

So we’re down to the P.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Right. RCAB-P. So the P in this is placement, right? And placement is a really big one. A huge optimization many people are not taking advantage of. And essentially what you see a lot of is a lot of the combined placements. People do this. And that’s not a problem, right? You may see that actually letting Facebook show your ads where it wants to is going to be more effective. And if that’s the case, fantastic.

However, placement optimization is something not a lot of people take advantage of, particularly in the lower funnel. So there’s two things I look at right away when I look at accounts today as it relates to optimization on placement. One is, are you showing ads specifically on Instagram Stories, and do you have creative that’s sized for Instagram Stories. There’s a tool through Facebook called the Video Creation Kit that allows you to take existing creative and make Instagram Stories specific creative. I would recommend not lumping those in, and trying those particularly in the low funnel separately.

The second thing that I’m going to look at for optimization on placement is, are you overly dependent upon the newsfeed? Many times I’ll look in an account and it’ll only have newsfeed on Facebook and newsfeed on Instagram selected. Again, not a problem, however, you run out of scale and you run out of potentially the inventory that’s available there. So even sometimes opening that up to other qualified placements like Messenger inbox, like Marketplace, like even maybe trying Audience Network, for god sakes, to give Facebook the option, can be helpful to you in the auction and in the algorithm for ads. So trying to make sure that you’re showing them not in all the different places and you’re not overly dependent upon the newsfeed. That’s really the way that I think about it with placement.

So that’s the reporting, creative, audiences, bidding, and placement process that I use as it relates to optimization.

Austin Brawner: So if people are going through all of that, right? And if you get through all of that and you do all the RCAB-P process, and you get to the end, and you’re still struggling, you’ve got an offer problem, right?

Andrew Foxwell: You definitely have an offer problem. And that’s exactly right. And you definitely have something about maybe your site, or that people don’t understand, maybe your price point is too high. Because these are the things that I’m doing on a very regular basis to make changes.

The other thing that you can try that I would recommend giving a shot, too, if you’ve not done is a new thing from Facebook that appears to be working really well. It’s working for my colleagues, it’s working for us really well, is campaign budget optimizations. Something, again, I wouldn’t recommend it 30 days ago. But what it does is you set that budget on a campaign level, and then you set up a whole bunch of ad sets under that of different audiences, and Facebook distributes the spend based on performance. And if you want to try to scale that out, you can ad more spend to it, and Facebook will automatically distribute the spend in the places where it’s most effective. And that makes it so much easier. So, that’s an interesting thing from an optimization standpoint is try that campaign budget optimization, or CBO, as well, as you’re trying to go through this process of trying different things.

Austin Brawner: Awesome. Well, Andrew, this has been really helpful. And I think for anybody who’s in the trenches, spending on a day to day basis, and has been consistently spending, this is a great process for them to go through to try to think about how to bring a campaign back, how to continue to improve. So, yeah, man. I appreciate this. Thank you. Anything else you want to share?

Andrew Foxwell: You bet, you bet. No. If anybody has questions, please let me know. But this is the process I wanted to go through, and hopefully it’s helpful to you. So, thank you very much for joining us. And hey, if you’re loving this please leave us a review on iTunes. Huge deal. Still a huge deal, it turns out.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. Please leave us a review. If you’ve been listening to us for quite some time and you got to the end of the episode and you have not yet left a review, go leave us a review on iTunes. That would be very, very helpful. We’d love to get this to some more people.

Austin Brawner: So, thanks so much for joining us and we’ll talk to you guys soon.

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